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Umbrellas are Forever – think Eco-Umbrella, think Recycling, think Fashion

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

It’s been raining – a lot – here in the Triangle area of NC. I’m deeply grateful to be officially out of the longstanding drought (for now). I hope the same for other areas still struggling by, but first, I’m going to simply enjoy getting wet! It’s been a long while since I’ve worried about raindrops falling on my head but it has brought my attention to umbrellas.

Have you ever had an umbrella that didn’t fall apart after a very short time? Me neither. Most rainy days in any city end with umbrella skeletons scattered in the streets. You could have caught me red-handed, throwing them in the trash when I lived in Seattle years ago, but I’m much more savvy about recycling and the whole trash/treasure thing now! Obviously, there are a lot of other broken umbrellas in the landfills (or on their way) and since they are made of polyester and plastic, doomed to stay there.

I’ve since given up on umbrellas and opted for a more permanent rain jacket and rain hat. But it’s understandable that umbrellas still serve a rightful purpose for city dwellers navigating a work day. So, buy to last and buy recycled. Here’s the scoop on an umbrella made from recycled materials from the online source, Eco-incentives:

The Eco-Brella is the first environmentally friendly umbrella! This 6-panel telescopic umbrella, when folded down, is just 15cm in length, and weighs a mere 181g.

– Frame made from Recycled Steel and Aluminium
– Canopy and Case made from 100% Recycled Polyester
– Notch/Runner/Ferrule made from 100% Recycled Nylon
– Handle made from 100% Recycled PET (plastic bottles)

Even a recycled umbrella may reach an early demise, so then what? Think fashion, function and fun! Dresses and skirts made from umbrellas made it onto the runway (and into a few stores) years ago, but you can also make your own by following these DIY instructions on ReadyMade. Here’s a young designer who constructed a dress and handbag. TreeHugger reported on an umbrella house. My own ideas include a sleeping bag cover, book bag, and covers for a bicycle seat and panniers – both things I’ve really needed as I continue to commute on two wheels, computer in tow.

IdealBite helped me find one resource for umbrella recycling – a fashion store in Brooklyn, NY, called Ai Ai Gasa, collecting umbrellas to recycle into designer clothing. I’m thinking of taking up a collection around my neighborhood and sending them a box full (maybe I’ll get a dress out of the deal). Melanie, from Ai Ai Gasa, responded to my inquiry and will happily accept umbrellas by mail. She says it’s easier and cheaper if you cut the fabric from the metal skeleton (including the spoke ends if you can) and recycle the metal (or they can). Send to:

ai ai gasa
c/o melanie mcclintock
59 4th ave, #4R
brooklyn, ny 11217

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